Over the weekend AT&T gave us a glimpse of their plans for the Web when they censored a Pearl Jam performance that didn't meet their standard of "Internet freedom."
"What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band," Pearl Jam band members stated after the incident in a release that urged people to take action.
Indeed. AT&T routinely rails against Net Neutrality as a "solution without a problem." They say Net Neutrality regulations aren't necessary because they wouldn't dare interfere with online content. At the same time they tout plans to become gatekeepers to the Web with public relations bromides about "shaping" Web traffic to better serve the needs of an evolving Internet.
Such spin needs to be held up to the light of experience. AT&T's history of breaking trust with their customers includes handing over private phone records to the government, promising to deliver services to underserved communities and then skipping town, pledging never to interfere with the free flow of information online while hatching plans with the likes of Cisco, Viacom, RIAA and MPA to build and deploy technology that will spy on user traffic.
The moral of this story is never trust AT&T at their word. The company acts in bad faith toward the public interest and will do whatever it can get away with to pad its bottom line -- including sacrificing the freedoms its users have to choose where they go, what they watch and whom they listen to online.
The Future of Music Coalition have done great work to mobilize hundreds of rock bands against such censorship but it's a threat that concerns everyone.
AT&T's vision of a better Internet -- "Your World Delivered" -- is not one that is shared by the more than 1.5 million people who have spoken out in favor of a neutral, affordable and accessible Internet for everyone. For us, the Internet isn't about one company delivering our world. It's about simply offering a real high-speed connection at reasonable rates -- and then getting out of our way.